Almost every adult in America has some credit card debt. That's normal, but letting that debt spiral about of control is never a good thing. If you feel stressed or overwhelmed by your credit card statement, here are the next steps to take.


1. Stop using your credit cards

This might seem obvious, but the quickest way to stop debt from building even more is to stop charging your credit cards. Seriously. Take them out of your wallet or even cancel them if you have to. There's nothing more self-defeating than adding to your balance while you're trying to pay it down.

2. Pay as much as you can reasonably afford

Now, it's time to focus on paying down your credit balance. Especially if your balance is pretty big, don't worry about paying it all off right away. Yes, letting it sit in your account longer will accrue more interest, but there's no reason to pay more than you can afford. The last thing you want is to spend money you needed for a medical emergency on your credit card debt. At the very least, pay the minimum payment on time every month. Depending on your budget, you can pay more on top of the minimum.

3. Use the debt snowball plan

The debt snowball plan was made popular by Dave Ramsey and it is an effective tool. First, you need to decide how much you want to spend on your credit card debt each month. Make sure it's an affordable amount that's not going to leave you penniless. Second, pay the minimum balances on all of your cards out of your debt budget. Third, use the rest of your debt budget on the card with the smallest balance. This method will motivate you forward as you quickly pay off cards with small balances and move on to the ones with bigger amounts.

An alternative to the debt snowball is the debt avalanche. The process is the same except in the end you focus on the card that has the highest interest rate — instead of the one with the smallest balance. The logic here is that you don't want your debt compounding further because of a high interest rate. But this might not be an encouraging plan if the card with the highest interest rate also has the biggest balance. Take a look at your finances and decide which one is better for you.

4. Don't fall back into bad habits

Once you finally do have your credit cards paid off (or the balances are down to manageable level), you don't want to repeat the cycle. If you find you can't control your spending, don't open another credit card account. In fact, go ahead and cancel any cards you still have open. Because you just paid down all of your debt, your credit score will be pretty great. No need to worry about keeping up with credit card payments if you can avoid it. Just stick to debit if you don't think your spending can be controlled on credit.

5. To really slow spending, only use cash

Whether or not you keep your credit accounts open, reigning in spending can be a challenge. If you're really serious about controlling frivolous purchases, set aside your debit and credit cards. Pay for everything in cold hard cash. The visual of seeing the amount in your wallet decrease will help keep you from those impulse purchases. Really want to commit? Only withdraw the amount of cash you plan to spend in a given week. This will ensure you don't go over your budget.

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